Hulkenberg "well surprised" by Renault pace

Nico Hulkenberg says he was “well surprised” to have qualified as high as seventh in China as the Renault RS17 proved to be the fifth fastest car on the day.

Hulkenberg "well surprised" by Renault pace
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H, leads Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team RS17

Although he in effect gained one spot due to issues suffered by Max Verstappen, it was nevertheless a major breakthrough for the Enstone team, which struggled for pace in Australia.

Hulkenberg stressed that the car felt good from the start of dry running on Saturday.

“Melbourne was for us an extended winter testing in a way, because we’d never really done a long run,” he said. “We learned quite a bit afterwards, and we found a couple of things on the car that weren’t ideal for Melbourne, so we were really looking forward to the Friday normal running to work on the car.

"But obviously Friday was taken away. It was a pity, and it was difficult to know where the car is.

“But this morning from the first lap I got in felt pretty comfortable, a good balance, a good harmony in the car, grip was alright, obviously relative to the competition. So I’m quite happy and well surprised today.”

Hulkenberg downplayed the suggestion that the limited running had perhaps favoured Renault and hurt others: “I don’t think it helped us, otherwise we could have found that [speed] yesterday, and we could have even worked more. We still played catch-up, because winter testing we missed a lot of time, so potentially we would have found even more.

“It’s early doors. Of course, today is very positive, and I’m very happy as well about how it went and where we stand and how the car feels. I’m happy where I am. It’s a good start, and tomorrow is the big job.”

Sunday is expected to feature a wet track - something that usually favours Hulkenberg, although he did little running on Friday.

“I did one lap on intermediates, so it’s going to be a bit of a light bulb. Same for everyone, really. I don’t mind the wet, as you know. It could offer more, it’s more risky at the same time also.

"There’s no guarantees. If you start at the front, you feel more protected, because you know what you get and you have track position already. I’m open-minded to whatever it is.”

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